Rocks, tear gas fly as Thai protests heat up

2013-12-26 08:24
Thai opposition protesters wave national flags during a rally. (Christophe Archambault, AFP, file)

Thai opposition protesters wave national flags during a rally. (Christophe Archambault, AFP, file)

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Bangkok - Protesters trying to halt preparations for elections fought running battles with police in the Thai capital on Thursday, escalating their campaign to topple the country's beleaguered government.

Officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets toward protesters trying to force their way into a sports stadium where candidates were gathering to draw lots for their position on polling papers.

The demonstrators, some armed with sling shots, threw rocks and attempted to break through police lines. Inside the stadium, candidates for at least 27 parties took part in the lot-drawing process, which went on unaffected despite the turmoil outside the gates.

Four election commissioners left the stadium on a helicopter, according to a spokesperson for the body.

Daily protests

Three officers were injured, said police Colonel Anucha Romyanan. He urged the demonstrators to assemble peacefully and said "attempts are being made to escalate the political situation by causing violence".

It was unclear how many protesters were hurt in the clashes, which were contained to the area around the stadium but stretched into the morning. It was the first violent incident in nearly two weeks of daily protests on the streets of Bangkok.

The protesters have been demanding that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra step down since mid-October, and street unrest has occasionally broken out. They oppose the polls scheduled for 2 February because Yingluck is seen as sure to win them.

Police have largely shown restraint and have made no move to arrest the ringleader, Suthep Thaugsuban, who is demanding the country be led by an unelected council until reforms can be implemented.

- AP

Read more on:    yingluck shinawatra  |  thaksin shinawatra  |  thailand
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